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Learning about the Cecropia Moth

We are so lucky to have Betty Boomer as our school naturalist! On Tuesday I received a very exciting call from Betty asking if she could come by to share a cecropia moth that had just hatched with our students. Of course, I said, “YES!” The cecropia moth is North America’s largest native moth. It is a member of the Saturniidae family or giant silk moths. In an earlier visit, Betty left us a screen with cocoons in it and told us this week to really keep a close eye. Betty kept this cocoon all winter and hung it in the Elementary tent a few months ago. We have observed it daily now that it is hatching season.

Yesterday around 4 pm I was fortunate enough to be walking around the yard with one of our elementary students, Mera, and her mom Alicia when we discovered our moth had hatched. I immediately sent this photo to Betty.

Betty was so excited she called me immediately. She was hoping for a female since she had already had a male. Mera remembered from Betty’s lesson that one way to determine if it is a female is to look at the antennae. The males have large feathery antennae that allow them to detect the female's pheromones up to a mile away. Females have thinner antennae and a larger abdomen. Here’s a photo of our moth soon after it emerged. With the sun in our eyes, it was hard to tell if it was a male or female.

Betty asked me to take the moth home and came over to see if she found her female cecropia!

Betty knew immediately. Here’s a photo of her male.

Here’s a photo of our cecropia on Betty’s finger with her male in the cage.

What do you think, is our cecropia a male or female?

Here’s a clue. Betty was so happy when she discovered the sex of our moth!

If you said female, you are right!

Betty sent me this video this morning to share with all of you of an earlier stage of the Cecropia moth’s life. Enjoy!

1 Comment

Jeff Sweeney
Jeff Sweeney
Sep 15, 2022

Those are amazing photos! Thank you for the lesson!

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